Mayor Bill de Blasio office made public the number of cases of Legionnaire's disease in New York City. According to his office the number rose again on Tuesday and now the total of people affected is 86. According to the Mayor's office, seven people have so far died from the disease.
All the cases are clustered in the South Bronx. Local officials have asked the city to tighten regulations on water-cooling towers, where it is believed that the illness have originated. Legionnaire's disease is a form of pneumonia caused by the Legionella bacteria. According to reports, the bacteria were found in five water towers in the area of South Bronx.
According to the publication the New York Times, the number of cases of people suffering of Legionnaire's disease has tripled in the last decade in New York City, most of the cases being concentrated in high-poverty areas.
Ruben Diaz Jr., Bronx borough president, declared that the city is making efforts to quickly respond to the outbreak and decontaminate the five cooling towers found to be polluted. He also asked the city to adopt appropriate measures to prevent this situation from happening again.
Diaz said that it is better to do a good job inspecting proactively rather than doing a good job just responding, speaking on Monday night in a town hall meeting. Currently, the city doesn't have proper measures in place to inspect its cooling towers regularly, and this job is left up to building owners who maintain them. De Blasio responded to this concern by saying that the Mayor's office is preparing legislation to address the issue.
Legionnaire's disease was first discovered in Philadelphia, in the year 1976, after an outbreak at an American Legion convention. At the time, many people became sick with a respiratory illness. The disease spreads only by a person breathing in small droplets of contaminated water and cannot be passed directly from person to person, according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC).
Legionella bacteria can multiply quickly in air conditioning systems and artificial water supply systems. Because of their complex water supply systems, large buildings are more vulnerable to contamination. Statistically, the fatality rate from Legionnaire's disease is between 5 and 30 percent. People with weakened immune systems or chronic respiratory issues, older people, and smokers are particularly vulnerable.